I just spent several bucks on an e-edition of a relatively new indie RPG, and while, conceptually, I give it an A+, technically, I'd have to give it an A-, or B+. I bought the e-book as part of a deal the author's company has, where you can buy the ebook, then upgrade to a print book, if you want it, for the difference in cost between the print and pdf. Sweet! I started reading and figured I'd be quickly sending along that difference for a nice shelf copy of what was shaping up to be an excellent piece of work. However, by the time I finished reading, I'd decided, maybe the price I paid for the ebook was a bit too much.
What's the problem? About a dozen or so editing misses: bad grammar, dropped words, extra words, misspelled words, typos, etc. The sort of things that make a reader stumble, breaking the flow and hindering comprehension, if only for a moment. And this book boasts an editor, who, according to the author, made significantly heavy edits. I've seen this unprofessional trend in nearly all of the indie texts I've purchased recently as reference and a window into the field. Mind you, these have been games from the stars of the gaming design communityâ€
. They are all reasonably well-written, when allowing for style variance; they are all clever; they all have one or more unique aspects that make them cutting edge games. This is what we have come to expect from the community.
Are we also now to expect shoddy copy editing as well? Is it just me? Am I being too picky to expect professionals to supply professional-quality work? Maybe.
Many would say that the value of these works lies in the spirit of their content, not the letter. For the most part I agree. But frankly, as a fledgling game designer, I find it embarrassing to find so many mistakes that could have been avoided by careful reading. (I'm not talking about a single mistake in a whole text. Nobody is perfect; no one is going to be able to catch everything. That's why the big shots have editing teams. Fresh eyes find fresh mistakes.)
Here's my take:
Point one: it's one thing for the first printing of a large print-lot book to exhibit these editing misses. It's lamentable, but excusable. I've even encountered it with $90 textbooks. At least with textbooks, w'ere usually talking about several hundred pages of text. A dozen mistakes there is somewhat understandable. Usually these issues get corrected by the second printing. However, with indie game design, we're usually talking books on the order of 50 pages, maybe 100.
Point two: With the introduction of e-books and POD services, there really is no such thing as first printing, second printing, etc. It's all continuous. There is no reason for an author not to fix the little mistakes as they are found, simply "printing" a new pdf and providing it at the store. It's not only lamentable, but inexcusable.
So why do I find such mistakes so often? Either, a) the authors' don't care , or b) no one is telling them. I suspect the latter. After all, who wants to be the one to contact the author whose game you found utterly enthralling, but oh, by the way, you messed up here, here, and here. That's even more embarrassing than just finding the mistakes. Clearly, we have a Catch-22.
Oh, and I'm not just talking to hear myself speak, today. I have a solution to propose. Let's come together as a community and help each other out. We can't afford big editing teams for works that are only going to sell at a trickle for low prices. Yet, I wouldn't want my product going out with amateurish quality. I take pride in my work, as do all of you. I want it presented in the best light, given the best credibility. So let's form a mutual final-edit community. I don't propose that we do away altogether with professional editors. They are sorely needed (I imagine one could work wonders with this post). They can offer insight on how to tighten up prose to make it read easily, when to trash whole sections and start over, and when you're beating that horse. We need the pros; I fully intend to utilize them, and suggest you do too. What I'm talking about here is editing after
the pros have done. After you get your baby all dressed up and ready to meet the world, take a minute to hand her to a stranger and see what they notice. Pass it along to fresh eyes. Give a copy to a friend who hasn't yet read the text (familiarity with the game is okay, as long as the text is new to him).
To that end, I propose we form a small community of final-read editors; volunteers who are willing to give a careful read to a piece before it hits the virtual shelves. Or even after, as long as the author intends to implement any necessary changes. So here's a start: contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
if you want me to help you out. Anyone else who wants to help out, post your contact info here. Let's all try to make each other look good!â€¡
Note: I'm withholding game names purposefully. I don't want to point fingers here.â€¡
I'll be posting this rant in other places, like The Forge
, and my livejournal
, too, to get a wider dissemination.